Over 30 million Americans have diabetes. Approximately 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. Several factors contribute to the diabetes condition, such as obesity, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, stress, and poor dietary habits, a sedentary lifestyle, among others.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy.
The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.
When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.
This is why many people refer to diabetes as “sugar”. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. It is a danger disease that can strike any one at any time, and does.
In general, people with diabetes either have a total lack of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or they have too little insulin or cannot use insulin effectively (type 2 diabetes).
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 out of 100 people who have diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body.
Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age. It most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood.
However, type 2 diabetes in children is rising and accounts for the vast majority of people who have diabetes.
In type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to use insulin the right way. This is called insulin resistance. As type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. This is called insulin deficiency.
Diagnosed vs. Undiagnosed
Out of the over 30 million Americans with diabetes, 21 million were diagnosed and 8.1 were undiagnosed. Because of the dangers of untreated symptoms, early detection is best.
It is important to make diabetes prevention a priority if you’re at increased risk of diabetes. For instance, if you are overweight or have family history of the disease. Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating healthier and becoming physically active.
Access to healthcare is key to detecting diabetes early. So it comes as no surprise that undiagnosed population is part of the lower income population without benefits and access to medical care.
Undiagnosed diabetes is prevalent in older people in lower socioeconomic positions and in minority ethnic groups.
Type 1 Diabetes Early Intervention
Diagnosing type 1 diabetes can be tricky, as its onset is sudden and unexpected. This disease is typically diagnosed during a trip to the emergency room for treatment of dangerously high blood sugars.
Catching the disease at an early stage requires screening, before symptoms start showing. This could get complicated, as the disease is mostly unpredictable, affecting many people without any family history of type 1 diabetes.
Doctors say the risk is increased when you have a first degree relative with type 1 diabetes, but just because you have a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean you’ll develop type 1 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recently released a suggested three-stage classification system for diagnosing type 1 diabetes and clarifying risk.
- Stage 1 indicates the presence of some autoimmunity.
- Stage 2 happens when the autoimmunity starts to affect blood sugar levels.
- Stage 3 is the state at which most people are currently diagnosed, involving symptoms such as excessive thirst, hunger and urination.
Researchers hope to use this staging system as a research roadmap to help better plan intervention strategies.
Type 2 Diabetes Early Intervention
Type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of premature mortality worldwide as a result of the long-term microvascular complications associated with this disease.
It is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years. Individuals with IGT (Impaired Glucose Tolerance) will progress to type 2 diabetes over their lifetime.
Therefore, treatment of high-risk individuals with IGT to prevent type 2 diabetes has important implications.
Hyperglycemia is a major risk factor for micro/macro vascular complications. Thus, increased emphasis has been placed on euglycemic control.
At this stage, assorted medicines and agents are prescribed for a candidate, possibly in the prediabetes stage or further, to assist with weight loss, blood pressure/hypertension, decreased blood glucose. Bariatric surgery is also an option for candidates with high BMI.
While medical consultations are wise, natural solutions should not be overlooked either. A diet rich in whole foods will contribute to the healing process.
Dietary changes should include increasing your superfoods intake (with vitamins, minerals, fiber), reducing your alcohol intake, eating the right proteins, and significantly reducing sugary drinks.
The latest diabetes prevention tips from the American Diabetes Association include:
Getting more physical activity (as exercise can assist with losing weight, lowering your blood sugar and boosting your sensitivity to insulin), getting plenty of fiber (lowering your risk of heart disease and promoting weight loss by helping you feel full), eating more whole grains (eating foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds help to maintain blood sugar levels), lose extra weight (well that one is pretty obvious!
But every pound you lose can improve your health), and skipping fad diets to make healthier choices.
Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight (around 7 percent of initial body weight) and exercised regularly, reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent.
So diabetes is not a death sentence! There is still life after diagnosis. Just be sure to conduct blood glucose screening if you are older than 45 and overweight or younger than 45 and overweight.
It is never too late to start making a few simple changes in your lifestyle now that may help you avoid serious health complications that diabetes brings down the road.